Then He said to another man, "Follow Me." "Lord," the man replied, "first let me go and bury my father."
the parallel of the present passage. On the other hand, it can scarcely be a mere duplicate or even a replica. Under any circumstances, if not the parallel, it certainly is a parallel, and the very equivalent, when allowance is made for the addition supplied by St. Luke. In fact, the absence of the third position from St. Matthew's account may possibly find explanation (explanation confessedly somewhat asked for) for any who hold, with some of the best of critics, that we may not improbably have here, in the three persons described, the anonymous biographies in so far as this incident goes of Judas Iscariot, St. Thomas, and St. Matthew himself. Notice -
I. JESUS CHRIST THE TYPE OF DISCRIMINATING FIDELITY; NOT DISGUISING, NOT FLATTERING, THE CHARACTER OF HIS OWN SERVICE, If any one, whether more or less savouring of the things that be of Judas Iscariot, seeks to enter the service of Christ and the kingdom of heaven, he shall not do so untaught as to the service, unwarned as to the conditions of it; he is plainly, faithfully, and most impressively told of these. Remark on the perfection for effectiveness of the warning here given, in its naturalness and simplicity (ver. 20), and of the touching, exquisite pathos of the last of the three clauses. Remark also on the inevitable dangers of times of apparent prosperity and popular impression, as well those that flourish in dispositions of the sanguine and enthusiastic type. Discriminate between the man who offers himself, as "moved by the Holy Ghost," and the way in which he offers himself, and the boastful volunteer, whether of the nature here Portrayed, or of that of the misguided zeal of Peter.
II. JESUS CHRIST THE TYPE OF CLEAREST VISION IN THE MATTER OF THE RELATIVE WORTH OF THE HEAVENLY CALL, AND ANY AND EVERY EARTHLY CALL; THE HEAVENLY RELATIONSHIP, AND ANY AND EVERY EARTHLY RELATIONSHIP; AND OF UNBROKEN SINGLENESS OF DEVOTION, AND LOYALTY INCORRUPT TO THE HIGHER. Remark here OH the expression (ver. 21), "another of his disciples," as finding its explanation from St. Luke (Luke 9:59), where we learn that Jesus had just called him, and that he was therefore his disciple. Illustrate from other clear deliverances of Jesus Christ that there is not to be imagined here for a moment any depreciation of the sacredness and the worth of human affections, but rather exaltation of the Divine affection (which must be ever the one determinating and turning-point of human character and hope and eternal outlook). Show how, in this instance, all this was yet more illuminated by the grace and kindness and inspiriting nature of the further commission, "But go thou and preach the kingdom of God."
III. JESUS CHRIST THE TYPE OF THE UN-LOOKING BACK, THE UN-MISGIVING, THE UN-TURNING, AND THE "WITHOUT-REPENTANCE" WHEN HIGH DUTY, WHEN THE MORE THAN HEROIC HEIGHTS OF PRESENT SELF-SACRIFICE, WHEN HOLY EFFORT AND HEAVEN, ARE THE GOAL IN FRONT. Dwell lovingly on the undoubted dependence (equally extraordinary and glorious in its essential nature) of true Christian work, on an exact, a clear, a steadfast eye, and a heart thereupon perfect to follow its outlook. How much so-called Christian work withers like untimely birth itself by reason of carelessness, mixed motive, and lack of supremely dominating affection! - B.
Let the dead bury their dead.
(W. G. Lewis.)I. THAT THE ATTAINMENT AND PRACTICE OF TRUE RELIGION IS THE MOST IMPORTANT BUSINESS IN WHICH WE CAN BE ENGAGED. It is so, because it is the necessary preparation for a happy immortality. We have commenced a course of being that shall never end. Our faculties, now in their infancy, and but just budding, shall exist and expand for ever and ever. If so, then man's great concern should be to secure a blissful immortality.
II. THAT TO THIS GREAT BUSINESS OF RELIGION ALL OTHER CONSIDERATIONS SHOULD BE MADE TO GIVE WAY. This second proposition is the necessary sequence of the first. If religion is the most important business, then everything else should yield to it. You conduct your temporal business on this principle. You endeavour to ascertain the relative importance of each department, and you make the lesser bend to the greater.
(J. H. Beech.)
1. That all human offices and duties must give place to the duty we owe to God. Duty to parents must be observed, but duty to God must be preferred before that or anything whatsoever.
2. He would teach us hereby that the ministry requires the whole man, even sometimes the omission of necessary works, much more superfluous: "Give thyself wholly to these things" (1 Timothy 4:15). The words are now explained; the practical notes are these two — First, that nothing in the world is a matter of such great weight as to be a sufficient excuse for not following of Christ. Secondly, that those who are called to follow Christ should follow Him speedily, without interposing any delays. For the first point, that nothing in the world is a matter of such great weight as to be a Sufficient excuse for not following of Christ, I will illustrate it by these considerations.
1. There are two sorts of men. Some understand not their Lord's will, others have no mind to do it (Luke 12:47, 48). Some understand not the terms of the gospel; they think to have Christ and the pleasures of the flesh and the world too.
2. They that have no mind to follow Christ put off the matter with dilatory shifts and excuses. To refuse altogether is more heinous, and therefore they shift it off for a time. Non vacat is the pretence — I am not at leisure. Non placer, I like it not, is the real interpretation, disposition, and inclination of their hearts, for excuses are always a sign of an unwilling and backward heart. When they should serve God there is still something in the way, some danger, or some difficulty which they are loth to encounter with. Secondly, that those who are called to follow Christ should follow Him speedily, without interposing any delays.Consider —
1. Ready obedience is a good evidence of a sound impression of grace left upon our hearts. When our call is clear, there needeth no debate or demurring upon the matter.
2. The work goeth on the more kindly when we speedily obey the sanctifying motions of the Spirit, and the present influence and impulsion of His grace. To adjourn and put it off, as Felix did (Acts 24:25), doth damp and cool the work — you quench this holy fire; or to stand hucking with God, as Pharaoh did, the work dieth on your hand.
3. There is hazard in delaying and putting off such a business of concernment as conversion to God. We know not the day of our death, therefore we should get God to bless us ere we die. A new call is uncertain (2 Corinthians 6:1, 2). It may be He will treat with us no more in such a warm and affectionate manner. It is a hazard or uncertain if the Spirit of God will put another thought of turning into your hearts, when former grace is despised (Isaiah 55:6).
4. Consider the mischiefs of delaying. Every day we contract a greater indisposition of embracing God's call. We complain now it is hard; if it be hard to-day, it will be harder to-morrow, when God is more provoked, and sin more strengthened (Jeremiah 13:23).
(T. Manton, D. D.)
I. Note, then, first of all, THIS APPARENTLY MOST LAUDABLE AND REASONABLE REQUEST. "Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father." Nature says "Yes," and religion enjoins it, and everything seems to say that it is the right thing for a man to do. The man was perfectly sincere in his petition, and perfectly sincere in the implied promise that, as soon as the funeral was over, he would come back. He meant it, out and out. If he had not, he would have got different treatment, and if he had not, he would have ceased to be the valuable example and lesson that he is to us. So we have here a disciple quite sincere, who believes himself to have already obeyed in spirit, and only to be hindered from obeying in outward act by an imperative duty that even a barbarian would know to be imperative. And yet Jesus Christ read him better than he read himself; and by His answer lets us see that that tone of mind into which we are all tempted to drop, and which is the characteristic natural tendency of some of us, of being hindered from doing the plain thing that lies before us, because something else crops up, which we also think is imperative upon us, is full of danger, and may be the cover of a great deal of self-deception; and, at any rate, is not in consonance with Christ's supreme and pressing and immediate claims. The tempter which says "Suffer me first to go and bury my father" is full of danger, never knows but that, after he has got his father buried, there will be something else turning up equally important. There was the will to be read afterwards, you know, and if he was, as probably he was, the eldest son, he would be executor most likely, and there would be all sorts of things to settle up before he might feel that it was his duty to leave everything and follow the Master. And so it always is: "Suffer me first," and when we get to the top of that hill, there is another one beyond. And so we go on from step to step, getting ready to do the duties that we know are most imperative upon us, and sweeping preliminaries out of the way; and so we go on until our dying day, when somebody else buries us. Like some backwoodsman in the American forests who should say to himself, "Now I will not sow a grain of wheat until I have cleared all the land that belongs to me. I will do that first, and then begin to reap." He would be a great deal wiser if he cleared and sowed a little bit first and lived upon it, and then cleared a little bit more. Mark the plain lesson that comes out of this incident, that the habit, for it is a habit with some of us, of putting other pressing duties forward, before we attend to the highest claims of Christ, is full of danger, because there will be no end to them if we once admit the principle. And this is true not only in regard of Christianity, but in regard of everything that is worth doing in this world.
II. Now LOOK AT THE APPARENTLY HARSH AND UNREASONABLE REFUSAL OF THIS REASONABLE REQUEST. It is extremely unlike Jesus Christ in substance and in tone. It is unlike Him to put any barrier in the way of a son's yielding to the impulses of his heart and attending to the last duties to his father. It is extremely unlike Him to couch His refusal in words that sound, at first hearing, so harsh and contemptuous, and that seem to say, "Let the dead world go as it will; never you mind it, do you not go after it at all or care about it." But if we remember that it is Jesus Christ who came to bring life into the dead world that says this, then, I think, we shall understand better what He means. I do not need to explain, I suppose, that the one "dead" here is the physical and natural "dead," and that the other is the morally and religiously "dead"; and that what Christ says, in the picturesque way that He so often affected in order to bring great truths home in concrete form to sluggish under. standings, is in effect: "Ay! For the men in the world that are separated from God, and so are dead, in their self-hoed and their sin, burying other dead people is appropriate work for them. But your business, as living by Me, is to carry life, and let the burying alone, to be done by the dead people that can do nothing else." Now, the spirit of our Lord's answer may be put thus: It must always be Christ first, and everybody else second; and it must therefore sometimes be Christ only, and nobody else. "Let me bury my father, and then I will come." "No," says Christ, "first your duty to Me"; first in order of time, because first in order of importance. And this is His habitual tone, "He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me." Did you ever think of what a strange claim that is for a man to make upon others? This Jesus Christ comes to you and me, and to the whole race, and says, "I demand, and I have a right to demand, thy supreme affection and thy first obedience. All other relations are subordinate to thy relation to Me. All other persons ought to be less dear to thee than I am. No other duty can be so imperative as the duty of following Me." What business has He to say that to us? On what does such a tremendous claim rest? Who is it that fronts humanity, and says: "He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me?" He has a right to say it, because He is more than they, and has done more than they all, because He is the Son of God manifest in the flesh, and because on the cross He has died for all men. Therefore all other claims dwindle and sink into nothingness before Him. Therefore, His will is supreme, and my relation to Him is the dominant fact in my whole moral and religious character. And He must be first, whoever comes second, and between the first and the second there is a great gulf fixed. Remember that this postponing of all other duties, relationships, and claims to Christ's claims and relationships, and to our duties to Him, lifts them up, and does not lower them, ennobles and does not degrade, the earthly affections.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
1. There is still a special call of Christ to individuals, not only to believe in Him, but to preach His kingdom. Without attempting to define this call at present, I may observe that it is neither miraculous on one hand, nor a matter of business calculation on the other, but a complete judgment or conclusion to which various elements contribute, such as intellectual and physical capacity, without which a call is inconceivable — providential facilities and opportunities, opening the way to this employment more than to all others — the judgment and desire of others, and especially of those best qualified by character and situation to sit in judgment on the case. I might add a desire for the work, which, in a certain sense, is certainly included in a call, but which is apt to be confounded with a mere liking for the outward part of the profession — for example, with that mania for preaching which is sometimes found in grossly wicked men, and has been known to follow them, not only to their haunts of vice, but to the prison and the madhouse. There is also a desire which results from early habit and association, the known wish of parents, pastors, and other friends, or the fixed inveterate habit of regarding this as a man's chosen calling, even when every evidence of piety is wanting. The desire which can be referred to any of these causes is entirely distinct from that which God produces in the heart of His true servants, as a part of their vocation to the ministry.
2. This vocation, where it really exists, is paramount to every personal and selfish plan, to every natural affection, even the most tender, which conflicts with it.
3. This conflict is not usually unavoidable, though often so regarded by fanatics. The first duty of the Christian is not to desire or create, but to avoid it; but if unavoidable, his next is to obey God rather than man.
4. Our Saviour did not deal indiscriminately with all cases of desire to enter His immediate service. The remark is at least as old as Calvin, that in this case He repelled the man who wanted to go with Him everywhere, and urged the man to follow Him at once who wanted to go home for what appeared to be most necessary purposes. So far as His example is a guide to us in these things, we are bound, not only to persuade, but to discourage, as the case may be.
5. There is no more danger of excluding those whom God has called by faithful presentation of the whole truth, than there is of preventing the conversion of His chosen ones by showing them the true tests of faith and repentance. The man who can be finally driven back in this way ought to be so driven. He whom God has called will only be confirmed in his desire and resolution by such warnings against self-deception, though he may pass through the discipline of painful doubt and hesitation for a season.
(J. A. Alexander, D. D.)I. The importance of a prompt and resolute devotedness of mind to the great concern of religion. This is, in other words, to follow Christ; and it includes three things.
1. The candid reception of His revelation.
2. To follow Christ involves a surrender of ourselves to Him as our Saviour and Governor. There must be transactions of a personal nature between every such individual and Christ. First, he must seek to Him, and to God by Him, for reconciliation. Next, he must pay attention to the institutions of Christ. They must have his punctual and cordial regard. Moreover, every such person must be careful to comply with the moral precepts of the New Testament, as well as its more spiritual injunctions.
3. To follow Christ imports also ardent solicitude for the prevalence of His religion.
II. The egregrious folly of stifling impressions in favour of such devotedness, by worldly considerations. Our Lord's language implies this: "Follow Me; and let the dead bury their dead." Leave the cares of the world to those who have no such call of God upon their hearts, but by no means postpone compliance with it for their sake. It is peculiarly sinful, then, to stifle religious impressions by the influence of worldly considerations. Yet —
1. Some are prevented from an immediate compliance with their convictions by the notion that there is a happiness to be found in the world, which they, in that case, would be required to abandon. An entire mistake. Religion imposes no gloomy austerities, no unnecessary self-inflictions.
2. Some are prevented from going the full length of their religious convictions by the remonstrances of worldly relatives and friends.
3. The prompt devotedness of other minds is prevented by some particular worldly object of pursuit upon which they are at that moment intent, and which promises, by its attainment, soon to leave them at liberty. But this is the artifice of Satan. It quiets the present alarm; it hinders the heart, at this time, from closing with the call of God.
I. "Lord, suffer me first." Ah; that is the cry of nature. "I will come to Thee, but suffer me first." "First suffer me to be disappointed, and then I will follow Thee; first, build my house upon the sand, and then I will come, O Rock, to Thee. First, worship and waste my affections on the day, and then I will come to Thee." "Suffer me first"; but Jesus answered, "Follow thou Me."
1. Follow Me. I am Life, and you seek life, but then you have only death; as long as you linger there, you do but seek the living among the dead.
2. Follow Me. You seek love, and here nothing loves you; that which loved you has gone, and, if you would regain what loved you, you must follow Me.
3. Follow Me. I am not only Life — I am the only Master of the kingdom of life. I am the Way to the life. In following Me, you do not leave behind you merely dead affections; you rise to the true kingdom of the affections. Action, action, action. Life is in action, in following more than in musing. The music of the harp is beautiful, but that has not served the world so well as the music of the hammer; and even all poetry is action — all true poetry is.
(E. Paxton Hood.)
1. That no office of love and service to man must be preferred before our duty to God, to whom we owe our first and chief obedience.
2. That lawful and decent offices become sinful when they hinder greater duties.
3. That such as are called by Christ to preach the gospel, must mind that alone, and leave inferior duties to inferior persons.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
1. The man probably heard of his father's death when he was with Christ, and wanted to return to the funeral. But the father was dead, and the son could do nothing for him now. If he had neglected him in life, he could not now repair the neglect.
2. Still you say natural affection impels a man to discharge the last offices of love. Yes; but there are reasons which justify a man in being absent from his father's funeral. This was a very solemn and critical time. The man appears to have been selected as one of the seventy; and if he had gone home, he would have been detained some days by the ceremonial law; his purpose might have been weakened; so even in the hour of his grief he is commanded to do this great service,
3. "Let the dead bury their dead." Does this show contempt for the unspiritual? No; our Lord never spoke with contemptuous indifference of such; it was his very eagerness that they should rise to a new and better life that led Him to call this man away.
4. The whole narrative suggests that critical moments in a man's life bring critical duties. If God is near us now in a very special and solemn manner, then that principle enters our life and regulates our duty.
(R. W. Dale, LL. D.)I. WHAT IS INCLUDED IN FOLLOWING CHRIST?
1. By following Christ the disciple is brought into a new relation.
2. At all times the religious relation is more important than the natural one.
(1) (2) (3) II. THE DISCIPLE OF CHRIST HAS NEW RESPONSIBILITIES. 1. He has to learn of Him. 2. He has to suffer with Him. 3. He has to move on towards Him. III. THE DISCIPLE IS BROUGHT TO POSSESS NEW PRIVILEGES. 1. He has the most powerful incentive to work in this world. He has the most glorious hope with regard to the world to come. (H. C. Williams.) 1. A life of obedience to Christ is the most effective way of glorifying our Saviour. It has been well styled "the strongest manifestation of God to the world." 2. There is no other preaching of the Word that makes so many converts to the truth. 3. Every man is a preacher, and every life a sermon. What sort of a discourse are you making, you, and you, and you? (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.) (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.) (Mackay.)
(2) (3) II. THE DISCIPLE OF CHRIST HAS NEW RESPONSIBILITIES. 1. He has to learn of Him. 2. He has to suffer with Him. 3. He has to move on towards Him. III. THE DISCIPLE IS BROUGHT TO POSSESS NEW PRIVILEGES. 1. He has the most powerful incentive to work in this world. He has the most glorious hope with regard to the world to come. (H. C. Williams.) 1. A life of obedience to Christ is the most effective way of glorifying our Saviour. It has been well styled "the strongest manifestation of God to the world." 2. There is no other preaching of the Word that makes so many converts to the truth. 3. Every man is a preacher, and every life a sermon. What sort of a discourse are you making, you, and you, and you? (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.) (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.) (Mackay.)
(3) II. THE DISCIPLE OF CHRIST HAS NEW RESPONSIBILITIES. 1. He has to learn of Him. 2. He has to suffer with Him. 3. He has to move on towards Him. III. THE DISCIPLE IS BROUGHT TO POSSESS NEW PRIVILEGES. 1. He has the most powerful incentive to work in this world. He has the most glorious hope with regard to the world to come. (H. C. Williams.) 1. A life of obedience to Christ is the most effective way of glorifying our Saviour. It has been well styled "the strongest manifestation of God to the world." 2. There is no other preaching of the Word that makes so many converts to the truth. 3. Every man is a preacher, and every life a sermon. What sort of a discourse are you making, you, and you, and you? (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.) (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.) (Mackay.)
II. THE DISCIPLE OF CHRIST HAS NEW RESPONSIBILITIES.
1. He has to learn of Him.
2. He has to suffer with Him.
3. He has to move on towards Him.
III. THE DISCIPLE IS BROUGHT TO POSSESS NEW PRIVILEGES.
(H. C. Williams.)
2. There is no other preaching of the Word that makes so many converts to the truth.
(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)
(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)